Editor’s Note: Points is pleased to highlight for our readers this call for contributors for the proposed Routledge Handbook of Drugs and Literature. Thanks to the Editors Kate Gaudet and Jay Williams for passing the information along!
We are seeking scholars of literature and drugs to contribute to the proposed Routledge Handbook of Drugs and Literature. The book will provide “a comprehensive, must-have survey of a core sub-discipline” and will be a resource for students and scholars who are seeking to work in this field. According to the proposed publisher, “The main goal of each handbook is to survey a topic or area of the field, explaining why the issue or area is important, and critically discussing the leading views in the area.”
Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Peder Clark. Dr. Clark is a historian of modern Britain, with research interests in drugs, subcultures, health, everyday life, and visual culture. He completed his PhD in 2019 at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and currently holds a position at the University of Liverpool.
The year is 1989, and a new designer drug is sweeping London. No, not Ecstasy—that was last year’s news. This new intoxicant is a green powder, a “product … for high rollers … It could make a day’s rest like a long holiday … FX was to be the catalyst for the ultimate leisure society.” But FX is not the consumerist panacea it promises to be. “In small doses it was harmless,” but the “wrong people abused it”; and death and violence followed in its wake.
This is the premise for Trevor Miller’s Trip City, recently reissued by indie publishers Velocity Press and originally published in November 1989. Trip City was the first “acid house novel,” a pulpy melange of Beat rhythms, Clockwork Orange riffs, and an unhealthy dose of Bret Easton Ellis’s yuppie nihilism. Despite being picked up by Avernus Creative Media—an imprint founded by Brian Aldiss who is best known for writing the short story that formed the basis of Steven Spielberg’s film A.I.—Trip City largely eschews the tropes of science fiction. Indeed, according to the introduction of the new edition, much of the book is based on Miller’s own personal experience, a nocturnal world in which “Red Stripe [beer] had run like piss”’ and there was “[e]nough [ammonium] sulphate to sink the Middlesex Hospital.”
Aldiss described Trip City as “quite brilliant … in line with Thomas de Quincy’s Confessions of an Opium Eater,” and, in the intervening years, the novel has become something of a cult classic. This is perhaps as much for the novelty of its presentation as the quality of the writing. Released with an accompanying cassette soundtrack by A Guy Called Gerald, (famous for the acid house classic “Voodoo Ray”), original copies of the soundtrack fetch upwards of £100 on the second-hand market. In the liner notes to the reissue, Miller muses that the music is less a soundtrack and more “an atmospheric companion piece that may well transport you back to those sweaty nights in a smoke-filled club when too many pills took hold.”
Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Bob Beach. Beach is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Albany, SUNY.
As the globetrotting mass of drug historians have been preparing to make their way to Shanghai for the bi-annual conference over the last few days, I (who am, unfortunately, not attending) had a chance to sit down and read some fiction. I don’t often get a chance to read much fiction. I have a copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five on a shelf on my desk, and the bookmark has been on page 50 since the day I purchased the book for the trip to Dwight, IL, for the ADHS conference there in 2016.
My dissertation research is formulating an argument about a marijuana culture in the United States beyond the Beats, with which it is commonly associated in the period prior to the 1960s. My initial reasoning was simply because this cultural movement has received plenty of coverage by literary figures and historians of the period. But I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to look at the Beat archives during my time at the New York Public Library. Southern’s papers contained drafts of a couple of the stories (including the title work) as well as some correspondence between Southern and other literary and showbiz figures from the fifties through the nineties. (Southern died in 1995.)
“An air of cool hovers around sobriety at the moment,” argues Alice O’Keefe in TheGuardian in December 2017, “just as it does over veganism and clean eating.” For O’Keefe, this is exemplified by “the proliferation of sober blogs such as Hip Sobriety (hipsobriety.com) and Girl and Tonic (girlandtonic.co.uk).” Indeed, a sense of fashionable distinction is proclaimed by the very title of Hip Sobriety, founded by Holly Glenn Whitaker. The cool appeal of such contemporary ideas about sobriety rests, in part, upon the way they distinguish themselves from older, staler accounts of its meanings; if sober living was generally understood as “hip,” of course, there would be no need for Whitaker to use the word itself. In this cultural moment, there is a determined effort to rewrite familiar narratives about alcohol and its place in our lives. The Hip Sobriety manifesto, for example, directly challenges a number of well-known ideas about alcohol, stating: “you don’t need to hit rock bottom,” “Am I an alcoholic? is the wrong question” and “It’s not incurable” because “Cured is never having to drink again.”
“How should he handle his alcoholic wife,” asks the lurid cover of the 1960 novel Alcoholic Wife by G.G. Revelle. “Beat her? Cater to her inflamed desires? Overlook her drunken intimacies with other men? Desert her for his seductive mistress?” With a retail price of 35 cents, the volume helpfully included a list of other Beacon Book titles that readers might enjoy, such as Footloose Fraulein and Trailer Tramp. Yet Alcoholic Wife was not just entertainment, but an examination of a growing social crisis, as the back cover promised: “This novel courageously tackles the problem of the drinking wife—today more common than ever before!”